American Presidents





George Washington American Presidents Teacher Guide

Reenactment of the Funeral of George Washington

Program Description:
Exactly two hundred years later, to the day, Mount Vernon re-created George Washington's funeral procession and service. More than 250 individuals dressed in 18th-century mourning attire followed the same path as their original counterparts.

Purchase the Program:
Saturday, December 18, 10am- 1pm ET on C-SPAN

Recommended Grade level: Elementary and Secondary


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    Lesson Plan Description
    Teachers can use this guide and program to focus on the life and death of George Washington, early American history and social customs, and the role of the presidency.


    Before Viewing the Reenactment of George Washington's Funeral
    Present students with a black armband, and/or a red or white gilley (carnation) or rosemary sprig to wear, just as guests at George Washington's funeral wore.

    Tell students they are about to view the funeral of George Washington. Ask them, from their own memory, to recall a public figure who has died. How did that person die? How did the public react to the death? How did the larger community commemorate and mourn that person? Does the death of a public figure, even someone who has retired from public service, impact society? Does his or her death change society's view of that person? How and why?

    Invite students to raise some questions about the way George Washington's death was marked. For example, who attended his funeral? For what qualities and achievements was he credited? What information does attending or watching a reenactment offer to students? Have students brainstorm some categories of information that may be offered in the reenactment. Narrow the topics down to the four categories below:

    A. George Washington

    B. The presidency

    C. American history

    D. Social history

    Have students conduct some research about George Washington's years after his presidency in order to prepare for learning about his death. Consider especially the following questions:

    • How many years did he live between the time he left office, and his death?
    • Where did he live during this time?
    • How did he occupy his days?
    • What friends and family surrounded him?
    • How was he perceived by the people and other prominent figures?

    Divide students into these four areas of study, according to their interest. Invite students to take notes on portions of the program that relate to their topic.

    While Viewing the Reenactment of George Washington's Funeral
    Directions: Circle the category of information you are researching. Take notes on the program that relate to that topic. In the left column, take notes on the visual information; in the middle column, take notes on the speeches, or the commentary; in the third column, note your own conclusions about the topic.

    A. George Washington B. The presidency C. American history D. Social history

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    After Viewing the Reenactment of George Washington's Funeral
    Divide students into groups according to the topic researched. Have students share information and add to their notes. Then, jigsaw students, dividing them into groups of four, with a mix of students who studied different topics. Have students share information and draw some conclusions about the value of studying history through a reenactment.

    Ask Students: How is the way George Washington remembered today similar to or different than the way he was remembered at his death?

    Students may then complete final projects based on their area of expertise:


    A. George Washington
    Have students compose some "first person" writing, for example a journal, a letter to a friend--reacting to the death of George Washington at that time. Choose a specific point of view: an old soldier, a slave or a person who was affected by George Washington in some way. Make reference to specific characteristics or events related to George Washington in his life. Include your own observations about his impact on you and the nation.

    B. American history
    Students can compose a formal account of the funeral for the late president. Compose a story that might have appeared in one of the newspapers of the time, or a speech to be presented.

    C. The presidency
    Construct a presentation that illustrates what George Washington's funeral reveals about:

    • The relationship between the president and the people
    • The personality, character and skills of an ideal president
    • The legacies left by George Washington to the institution of the presidency

    D. Social history
    Who was involved in George Washington's funeral? Construct a presentation that compares and contrasts the ways various people prepared for and participated in the funeral: slaves, the principle mourners, clergy members, musicians, soldiers, and others.


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